Make work with Pandoc and tufte.css

Here’s how to get to do all the Pandoc pre-processing for you when previewing documents. It also explains how to use tufte.css as a theme in Marked, which I find to be very pretty.

This comes in really handy when you want to see what your document will look like, references and all.

Things you’ll need:

First, install the ET-Book fonts locally. They’re very pretty.

  1. Unzip the ET-book zip file
  2. Go into each subfolder
  3. Double click on each .ttf font and install using Font Book.

Configure Marked to use Pandoc as the markdown processor.

  1. Open
  2. Open Preferences ( → Preferences)
  3. Click Advanced
  4. In the “Path” field, add /usr/local/bin/pandoc
  5. In the “Args” field, add -f markdown -t html5 -s -S --normalize --bibliography /users/username/dropbox/refs/bibliography.bib --csl /Users/username/src/Pandoc/apa.csl Replace these with your BibTeX bibliography and whatever CSL you prefer.

Next, let know about tufte.css.

  1. Open’s preferences
  2. Click “Style”
  3. Under “Custom Styles” click “Custom CSS Example”
  4. Click the “Reveal” button
  5. In a new Finder window, unzip the tufte-css zip file and open that folder.
  6. Delete index.html, LICENSE,, and the img folder.
  7. Copy the remaining files to the folder opened when you revealed the location of the “Custom CSS Example.”
  8. In’s preferences, click the “+” button and drag the tufte.css file into that dialog box so you don’t have to find it manually.
  9. Change your “Default style” to tufte.css.

Now when you drag a markdown document onto for it to watch, it’ll reference your bibliography, apply the CSL, and compile the document with Pandoc, and refresh every time you save.

Potential issues

Make sure the green dot in the lower right-hand corner is on. This indicates is using Pandoc.

If the text column is too thin, resize the window. The tufte.css theme likes it a little smaller. I’m sure there’s some way to turn off it’s dynamic resizing in CSS, but I haven’t messed with it.

Please let me know if I left anything out or if this didn’t work for you.

How to pay someone on MTurk when things go wrong

In my dissertation research I use Amazon Mechanical Turk to recruit participants for my experiments. Yesterday someone completed my experiment but Amazon would not let them complete the HIT, probably because they tried starting on one and switched to another (still not sure why). This meant that I had their data but couldn’t pay them.

Amazon’s thought of this. They have a great guide about how to pay for non-submitted HITs.

This is mostly here for me or folks who search for things when they get a little panicky about making sure people get their dues.

Books in Brief: I Love This Part

Get the book.

Like most poems, describing this doesn’t exactly work. Just get it. It’s beautiful and captures very well something very important. This interview is a good place to go after you read the book. Read the book first.

Tillie Walden’s other graphic novel, The End of Summer, is on its way to me now. She has another coming out in May.

When I first heard about this book on tumblr it was out of stock on Amazon. Looking back the other day I saw it was in stock, so I ordered. The author herself shipped it to me!

Books in Brief: If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

Get the book.

Lucy Worsley wrote If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home after doing a television program on the history of what it was like to live in the past in Britain. She’s the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the caretaker of many castles and relics of noblesse gone by. She covers the history of bedroom, the bathroom, the living room, and the kitchen, starting from the 11th century and ending in the now.

This book is not A Distant Mirror, but it doesn’t try to be. It covers much more, and falls in the genre of rapid fire facts framed in a fun and engaging way. It’s written in a conversational tone and is fun and engaging without being heavy. At the same time I found myself wishing for just a little more detail in many places, and some bibliographic information.

I read it before going to bed every night for the last month or so, and it really made me appreciate the modern conveniences both in our terrible old rented 1950s house and those that have spread through society, like running water. One cold night the water main on our street broke and we were without running water for a day, and our electric baseboard heating and horrible postwar newspaper insulation couldn’t keep up with the -11°F temperature outside. (When tussling with the cold, upstate New York really doesn’t have its shit together compared to Wisconsin.) Reading Worsley’s book gave me a sense of communion with the people of the past as we tried to sleep in our 59°F house, some semblance of empathetic comfort while I read under a down duvet, something that didn’t even exist in the english-speaking world until the 1970s.

My first open-source project

Yesterday I wrote and published my first open source software, the awfully named jspsi-go-example. It is an experiment module for PsiTurk. PsiTurk makes it easy to run psychology experiments on the web using Amazon Mechanical Turk, where over half a million people do little tasks for a spot of coin. Because I don’t live where my university is, and because my project has a limited budget (as far as payout funding goes for projects with this much programming and set up) I plan on using MTurk this module as the basis of my dissertation experiment. So my little experiment module should come in handy. I even made an icon.

Before yesterday I didn’t really know anything about JavaScript, let alone CoffeeScript, which I find more pleasant and easier to understand than JavaScript because I’ve been programming off and on in Python since the mid 2000s. I also discovered it has a variant for Literate Programming, which I vastly prefer. So I learned that by translating some tutorial code from jsPsych, a JavaScript library that makes it easy to structure experiments and record data on the web. (It’s written by Josh de Leeuw, who is a graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington, my undergraduate alma mater and in the same department!)

Josh’s tutorial has some good starter code. It includes the ability to determine whether or not an answer is correct given some computed criteria, but does not pass that information back to the PsiTurk server or its database. So I wrote that bit.

Then I figured I’d open source it so others wouldn’t have to do the same thing I did. I had only used GitHub as a place to download things from, except when I was writing my masters thesis in LaTeX, where I did use a private repository as a backup system. But I’d never published code. That was very easy to learn, thanks to their great documentation and client-side GUI interface. I didn’t fork Josh’s project, which was probably a faux pas, but oh well; he starred my tweet about this so everything’s okay.

I like CoffeeScript. It makes JavaScript approachable.

(Technically it’s not really my first; I contributed a kernel patch to Linux in the early 2000s that fixed a strange bug for some weird hardware I had. I had no idea what I was doing but it worked.)

The Light Of The Classroom

I miss the cleanliness of college campuses, especially classrooms. In every classroom in every campus there is a kind of cleanliness that helps learning along its way. It’s like a mental lubrication. At IU this was very prominent, even in old builds where everything in a classroom could be made of wood, that wood was lacquered, and thickly, to be as plastic when cleaned and sprayed with whatever bleach-based thing they coated and wiped off every known surface. Something about the peacefulness in classrooms in Ballentine Hall, where my mind wandered during a lecture, was helped along by these clean rooms, when all that mattered was listening to the TA or professor, and nothing else intruded from the outside world. It was calming, especially in the morning, with coffee. Campuses, particularly during my undergrad, had a kind of focusing effect. I can’t say I ever felt that particularly well on Madison’s campus, other than in the Engineering building, which really felt like a college building. The Educational Sciences building and the Teacher education building never really felt the same as most of the buildings on IU’s campus, or particularly at Purdue’s campus, my most college of college experiences. Everything there was new, and it was all connected; there was no reality to intrude upon students walking its brick sidewalks watching and darting in and out of brick buildings.

In every other context we bemoan florescent light, but in a classroom it is somehow welcome in its neutrality. It’s like the sea the way it spreads over the ceiling and falls down walls onto a polished grey-speckled polished white floor. It renders the white or pink paper handouts before us with perfect legibility. For the most part the white light of heaven is never rendered as purely as the fluorescent overhead lights of a classroom. Heaven’s light is limned in gold, but the classroom’s isn’t at all, just pure. This clean light amplifies the cleanliness of the classroom, because in it any dirt or filth is rendered in stark contrast to everything else, and all eyes focus on it. Even stained and trampled parquet carpet seems untouched as the stains have been radiated clean by fluorescent light.

I miss this, mostly because I will never set foot in a classroom again as a student, and moments where I could appreciate all this subtle beauty would be few and far between.

On writing every day, and how spitting out crap first thing in the morning is useful

You wake up and you brush your teeth. You spit and rinse. Why don’t you do the same thing for your mind?

Almost everyone I’ve talked to who makes a living by writing (which consists mostly of scientists) cannot praise enough my habit of writing every morning. I try to spit out 500 words in the morning before I go about my other work, no matter what is pressing. It’s a useful time to write for something, or to write about something, or to simply outline in sentence format, or just let ideas slip out.

The most important part is to keep writing. No self-censorship allowed. This is the most critical part of the process. You can judge it later, and yes, it is a mere first draft, but you can hold a first draft in your hand or see it radiate illuminated before you on a screen. Don’t watch the word count. Check it when thoughts pause. You don’t have to hit 500 every time. But at least type 500. Some things don’t make sense in the morning, so destroy them, especially if they’re illegible.

All of those people you hear about when people in your field talk about ideas, and the people that have them? They write. They get their voice out somehow. And in order for any ideas banging around your dirty brain to come out and get clean, they have to be expunged from it, through your hands.

Spilling your mind in the morning frees the cruft in your head. Sometimes that falls out on the page, too. That’s okay; now you have a clean head for the rest of your day.

Every now and then you’ll dislodge something that has a nice luster to it, something worthy of polish and time. Make a note of those and revisit them.

See, I just checked my word count. It was 381. I have to fill this space somehow.

I used this method to write over 60 pages of very rough stuff for my prelim, a large literature review graduate students write in my department before becoming a dissertator. I hardly used any of it. The actual meat and bones were written in an outliner, facing dozens of open PDFs full of highlights. A messy process. But when I needed an introduction on the day before my deadline, I picked through my tidbits of morning writing and found one. I dropped it in and tweaked it slightly, and everything was fine. I now have a body of work to pull from.

Speaking of bodies of work: we write so much in college. Reuse your writing in other classes. Mix and match sections. Revise. Never throw away anything you write. Make sure you can find it later.

So write and save.

Write down your own thoughts, don’t save others’

Saving a list promotes forgetting it. BPS Research Digest has a nice summary of a paper where merely the act of saving a list in a text editor lowers students’ abillity to recall its contents when tested later.

Further details back up this interpretation. When the computer saving process was made unreliable – files kept getting lost – the saving process no longer boosted the students’ performance on the second list. Also, when the first list was made up of just two words, meaning it placed little strain on memory, the act of saving it to computer no longer made a difference to memory for the second list.

This is another argument against everything buckets and in favor of summarizing and note taking in the zettelkasten tradition.

You did good, Banditapple

This was a fine pocket notebook from Banditapple that I got as part of their trial program.

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It’s a little big, even for my massive 6’4″ self, but it held up in the front right pocket of my 501s for half a year.

The paper felt great on my TWSBI 580EF and Kaweco Sport F. Very little ghosting, if any. The stitched binding held together great.

  <img src="/squarespace_images/static_50366401e4b09af678ef0597_50366401e4b09af678ef05ac_54b82e17e4b0ac034b1b2028_1421356595170_image.jpg_" alt="">

I don’t think I’ll be ordering another one. It’s too big. I’ve replaced it with a Field Notes Pitch Black, which is much worse, but a better size.

I have a Midori notebook from my Midori Passport, but I’m afraid I’ll accidentally swallow it.

How to disable f.lux for specific apps by hand

I use f.lux. But I don’t like the way games look with it on, especially when I’m trying a new one. I wanted to play Gravity Ghost, but I couldn’t minimize it, nor could I use a second screen to use f.lux’s “disable” option from the menubar.

So I did it by hand.

Located here. Located here.

Add a line for the desired application. Add a line for the desired application.

I found the f.lux plist file and added a line with disable- then the reverse URL name of the app I wanted to disable f.lux from affecting. You can find that in ~/Library/Preferences easily enough. There are other ways, I’m sure.